MUNICH — (MunichNOW Commentary) — There is a very good chance you may see a disheveled Franz Josef Strauβ walking the streets of Munich in the coming days, shaking his head in disbelief about how far his beloved Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) has fallen since his death by heart attack while hunting outside of Regensburg on 3 October 1988.
The absolute majority for the CSU dynasty has ended, and like so many before, it will die a nasty death.
The leadership of the CSU, Horst Seehofer, Markus Söder and the formerly influential Edmund Stoiber, in no way chips off the old Strauβ block except their surnames begin with ‘S’, failed to see the changes taking place in Bavaria. The electorate has changed, moving more to the center, or one might even dare say to the left of center (to Strauβ’s dismay), as could be seen with the throngs of people who welcomed waves of refugees in the autumn of 2015 at Munich’s Central Station.
Most people today do not regret that action taken then nor since.
Many locals still volunteer with language, life issues or administrative help with the local authorities.
Seehofer naturally and absolutely misread the tea leaves and tried to lurch the CSU back to the right to get back what was perceived as a migration of some of the party members and voters to the right wing Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD). Yes, a few may have moved right, but the majority of the losses were to the center. By cudgeling the few, Seehofer lost the many. His tough stances on the Bavarian border while serving as Interior Minister, won him few friends outside of the CSU’s most conservative (and rural) base.
Bavaria has enjoyed a buoyant economy since Strauβ’s death, and one might argue because of Strauβ’s ability to attract businesses to Bavaria and diversify the economy during his long reign. (How the businesses were attracted is a discussion for a different day.)
With a booming economy it was only logical that the best and brightest minds from across Germany, and later the EU and the world, would want to move to Bavaria in search of well-paid jobs. Bavaria, and especially Munich, has benefitted handsomely.
So in another sign of the CSU’s tone deafness, Stoiber recently said that “Bavaria has been the victim of its own success.”
Victim? This is hardly the positive language that many persons who now call Munich and Bavaria home want to hear, as they continue to plan three week holidays to Asia, buy new electronic goods and ride their bikes around Munich in increasingly polluted air.
It is doubtful that the CSU will fold its tent over the coming years. But it will have to increase the size of that tent and compromise on some issues if it hopes to enjoy anything similar to the success it had enjoyed up until now. The leadership of Seehofer and Söder are the old guard. A change of the guard
Election results commentary: